Report finds graduates have just £150 spare each month after living costs and half feel a degree has not helped their life path
More than a third of graduates regret going to university, and half reckon they would have landed their current job without having to study for a degree, according to damning research into the finances of the millennial generation.
The research by insurance company Aviva was published days before hundreds of thousands of A-level students discover if they have obtained the grades needed for their desired university course. In the report, entitled Generation Regret,Aviva warns that many will wish they had never bothered attending university, given the level of debt they will accumulate.
It found that 37% of those who went to university regret doing so given the amount of debt they now have. A total of 49% said they could have got to where they are in life without the benefit of a university degree.
The research was condemned by universities, which pointed to separate data published at the same time showing a high level of satisfaction with university and college courses. The annual National Student Survey, covering responses from 312,000 final-year students, found an overall satisfaction rating of 86% this year, the same as last year.
But Aviva said financial woes force many to question the value of a university education. It said that millennials – aged 18-35 – estimate that they will take 11-12 years to repay their student debts, and that every month they are scrambling to make ends meet.
“Aviva’s findings suggest that millennials have just £156 to spare at the end of each month after essential living costs and face repaying hefty student loans,” it said, adding that a third of millennials feel they have to carry more of a financial burden for higher education than older generations.
Louise Colley of Aviva said: “The financial hangover from university has led many in this age group to question whether in hindsight they made the right decision and how much value it has brought to their current position. With relatively low disposable incomes and significant debt to tackle, millennials don’t have it easy when managing their finances.”
Universities dismissed the findings, which they said were based on narrow survey data. Aviva interviewed more than 2,000 people aged 18-55 as part of its regular family finances report, “with additional interviews among 18-35s taking the total in this age group to 1,073 for the spotlight on millennials”.
However, official data shows that graduates are on average more likely to be in employment and earn more than non-graduates. The government’s Graduate Labour Market Statistics: 2015, published in April this year, continue to show that, in general, graduates are more likely to be in work and earn much more than non-graduates over a working lifetime.
Across the working age population, graduates earned £9,500 more than non-graduates on average. These gaps were narrower for the young population, with graduates earning £6,000 more than non-graduates.
An IFS study from April this year on graduate earnings also showed that graduates are much more likely to be in work, and earn much more than non-graduates.
The National Union of Students, while declining to comment specifically on the Aviva findings, said that too many students have been condemned to a lifetime of debt. Sorana Vieru, the NUS vice-president for higher education, said: “The £9,000 fees system is a failed experiment and has not driven up quality or sustainably funded institutions as promised.
“In just one year the government has scrapped maintenance grants, NHS bursaries, cut the disabled students’ allowance to the bone, changed loan repayment terms to make graduates pay back their loans faster and is now planning a further rise in tuition fees. We urgently need to review this unsustainable funding system which will force students into a lifetime of debt.”